Once more unto the Phil Hughes breach

Nettles out of surgery
Former Attorney General in KC

Saberscouting — the best new baseball blog out there — weighs in on the Phil Hughes velocity debate with a stellar piece dissecting Hughes’ mechanics. Frankie Piliere’s final words are worth noting:

So, what’s my point in this article? A. Too much is being made of other supposed issues in his mechanics prior to his follow through. I hope I was able to ease some Yankee fans fears that there really is no other changes up this point in his delivery. The change I did touch on however, I do think could be a direct cause of his lessened velocity since over the past year. Is it because of the hamstring injury? I can’t say for sure either way, but considering much of my focus in this article has been on that front leg in question, it is certainly possible.

But, the bottom line is right now is that from what I can see, Hughes is pushing against that front leg and not driving over and through it. Hence, the reason for the less aggressive looking follow through with his leg that I pointed out above. The problem is not arm speed, nor is it arm angle or the way his hands are breaking, at least from what I can tell. Through 75% of his delivery, essentially nothing has changed. The leg lift and follow through certainly appear different, though…

So, what to do? I’d say the first step would be taking some pressure off of that right shoulder. And, to do that, Hughes would need to once again be aggressive with his legs and get that high rear leg lift. This will certainly make his bend at the waist much more smooth, rather being pulled down by his shoulder. In my opinion, he simply needs to get his weight transfer flowing smoothly right over and through his front side rather than his weight transferring into that front leg but not over it.

Unlike Pags, Piliere doesn’t see this as a major problem, and he even allows for the fact that the Yanks would prefer Hughes to stay in the lower 90s with better control. He also feels it is an imminently correctable delivery flaw stemming from Hughes’ hamstring injury. As the youngster grows more comfortable, I fully expect to see his delivery creep back up.

Finally, it’s worth noting something John Manual said in a Baseball America chat today. “Hughes threw in the 90-94 range consistently in the minors,” Manual said, “and it’s not really a matter of dispute. We wrote 91-95 in our ’07 Handbook, and that might have been a tick high, but he was 92-94 in our ’06 Handbook, and 90-94, touching 95 in our ’05 Handbook, coming out of high school.”

That’s basically what we’ve seen from Hughes. Pitchers who throw 94 don’t do so on every pitch; they generally sit around 91-92. This idea that Hughes ever threw 96 is a fallacy created by the hype. By the time the summer rolls around, Hughes will be right where he and the Yankees expect him to be. Hopefully, by then, we’ll look back on this debate and see it as much ado about nothing.

Nettles out of surgery
Former Attorney General in KC
  • Steve S

    This is beating a dead horse. Bottom line is Hughes could be a complete flop, he could be a good pitcher, and there is a remote chance he could be a great pitcher. The more you guys discuss this and find every excuse in the book for his lack of velocity, the more it seems that your defending the guy rather than objectively analyzing what he has done so far. Its been a mixed bag which is what you expect from kids. But I think the reality is that there is a great possibility that Hughes will not be great. I dont think its unfair to say that. And I also dont think the Santana talk is unfair because the reality is Hughes and Kennedy seemed to be the asking price. So they have to live with that.

    I do think its unfair to criticize the yankees for this youth movement strategy based on hughes and kennedy’s bad starts. Just like I think it was a little over doing it when we all admired and made T-Shirts for Hughes for his start against the Blue jays last week or even his three innings against the Indians. It should be tempered enthusiasm along with tempered criticism.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that Hughes has had a bad start. He had a great start against Toronto and struggled against KC. The asking price for Santana meanwhile was Hughes, Kennedy and Melky, and the Twins weren’t too inclined to make a trade with an AL partner, it seems.

      I don’t view the Saberscouting article or my analysis of it as an excuse. It’s an analysis. Why is Hughes’ velocity seemingly 1-2 mph lower than it should be? Because he’s not driving over his front foot enough. That’s not an excuse; it’s a reason.

      But yes, we’ve strayed firmly into dead horse territory. I agree, and I wrote this post.

      • Steve S


        I want to be clear I have always been on board with the Hughes stuff but i think along with the dead horse stuff you guys may have strayed into the less than objective take on this whole issue. For example, you call his Toronto start “great”, the guy went six innings, struck out four and gave up two runs (granted they were dinky and partially due to some miscues in the field), but ultimately he wasn’t great, he was good. And no offense yesterday was an awful start, his velocity was secondary to his lack of control which is what will be determinative in his success.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          Now, we’re arguing semantics :)

          Yesterday’s outing was bad; last week’s was good. I think that we can agree upon.

  • E-ROC

    What is Hughes’ innings cap? Do you think Joba will replace him at the midway point?

    I think Hughes will be more aggressive as the season goes on. His confidence in his legs will grow with success. He’ll make the necessary adjustments.

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  • Alex

    Does someone have Dave Eiland’s email? I imagine he knows Phil’s ’06 mechanics quite well, and I recognize that suggesting someone email the pitching coach of the New York Yankees borders on lunacy/fanaticism. But maybe this kind of analysis/attention to detail isn’t possible for a man who manages a major league pitching staff. Then again, maybe its absolutely crucial and has already been done by Eiland.

    The desire to see Phil succeed is absolutely overwhelming, to such an extent that I feel like informed fans have a responsibility to help produce quality outcomes for Phil, as if those outcomes are in our realm of control to begin with. Is this what having a kid is like?

    • http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=56352514 Jamal G.

      It worked in Seattle with Felix Hernandez and their former pitching coach, Rafael Chaves, who was handed a letter written by the folks at U.S.S. Mariner on the flaws on Felix Hernandez.


      Alex if you’re serious you should put the word out to the Yankees blogosphere and if enough interest is there maybe something can come of it. It would be great.

  • Ivan

    Im not worried. I think the Velocity will pick up sooner, if not later. The guy will be okay trust me.

  • Ivan

    Plus, his velocity problems are just a small sample. While his other velocity readings were much larger samples.

    Leave him alone, he will improve trust me.

    besides he still has that nasty curve anyway.

  • Jake

    I live in KC. It was terrible yesterday. It was cold and wet. I didn’t want to go out and I had a coat on, it couldn’t be good conditions to pitch. I would also like to note that Joe G had 2 great calls on pitchouts that if Jose had been behind the plate Joey G would have been out. That changes the whole game right there, less pitches for Hughes and probably gets him some confidence.

  • CB

    People talk about small sample size all the time on the baseball blogosphere.

    It amazes me that people are willing to draw such definitive conclusions about Hughes mechanics and changes in those mechanics based on a few minutes of video tape that they have available to them.

    They look at a couple of minutes of video tape from the minors – video tape that may amount to no more than 10 – 20 pitches – all of which are limited to the centerfield camera shot – and then feel confident in their ability to make global statements about what his mechanics were and how they’ve changed now?

    How can they even be confident that the mechanics Hughes is using in the tape they have from his time in the minors is an accurate assessment of his baseline mechanics? He threw thousands of pitches – they have 20 or so to look at. How can you know the 20 you happened to look at are in fact the “true” mechanics he used.

    Maybe he was just off mechanically that day. This is what Carlos Gomez did in that first video scouting piece from the hard ball times that got everyone in a panic about Hughes “change in mechanics.” The guy like half an inning of video tape to watch but had some how figured out flaws in hughes’ mechanics that Nardi Contrereas, Gil Paterson, and Dave Eiland never saw. That’s just genius.

    Saber scouting is a fun read but even with them – they had Hughes video from the futures game- he threw poorly that day. How do you know his mechanics just didn’t happen to be out of whack that day?

    If there is some change in his mechanics I’m sure Nardi and Eiland know about it and are working on it.

    It strains believability to think that somehow all of the pitching coaches and instructors in the yankees organization are just missing something that some guy on the internet can figure out after looking at some video tape.

  • zack

    No, you’re all missing the point. Hughes “is a 90-91 guy” and thats all there is to it. I can see that with complete confidence based on what I have seen already and can project that down the road it will be virtually impossible for him to be a #1, whatever that might be. Whatever it is though, because as of right now he doesn’t throw two MPH faster consistently, he won’t reach that. The weather obviously doesn’t play a factor because other pitchers were able to throw harder than he was in the same weather, and they were all older so shouldn’t be throwing as hard, since at 21 he’s throwing as hard as he ever will. He was over-hyped and he is what he is. Period.

    Don’t you get it??/????//???

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Well played, Sir. Well played.

  • Anthony

    I read this earlier in the morning while I was at work and wanted to check Hughes’ pitching speeds from last year’s no-hitter.

    I watched every pitch and although the announcer’s noted a problem with the radar gun for a few innings hughes consistently hit 92-93 and ranged from 90-95.

    In certain situations where Hughes wanted more consistency than speed, his fastball was typically 90-91. He only hit 95 one time in the game, and dialed up 94 three or four times.

    This game was May 1 last year in Texas, so consider that the weather was probably 70-80 (?).

    I really don’t think we have anything to worry about as far as his pitching speed. I think in warmer weather Hughes will hover in that 91-93 range.

    He consistently hit 91 in the game yesterday in 40 degree weather.

    If he was good enough for 6 innings of a no-hitter hitting 92-93 I’m sure a couple of games throwing 91 will be alright.

    Calm down.

  • http://saberscouting.com Frankie Piliere

    Hey guys…glad you like the article. I wanted to jump in here and clarify something on the article that just said on our site. Here’s what I said:

    I should have specified this and glad you brought this up. My analysis is represented by these short video clips but they aren’t the sample size I’m working off of. I saw a ton of Hughes live and in person behind the plate when he was in Trenton and a game in the GCL. And, I’ve watched most of his big league starts.

    Despite the fact that this is the only video available, I assure you that this is based mostly off what I’ve seen. The video is simply what was available to illustrate this.

    I try to steer clear of evaluating guys I’ve only see video of. I can’t agree more with you about sample size. You CANNOT evaluate on short clips. That’s what I mean when i say these were my illustrations, not my references that I based the analysis on. I’m really very against the idea that people all over the web think it’s possible to fully analyze a pitcher based on short video clips. You need much more…the clips are just to illustrate to the readers.

    Also, to clear up something that i read a lot on the web today. Phil Hughes throwing 95-96 MPH in regular season starts is no myth. I clocked him at that personally, on a standard stalker gun. The velocity decrease is real.

    Frankie Piliere